Simone Briggs is a University student from Melbourne, Australia. Here she shares her experience of spending a year on an industrial placement with Renault F1 Team as well as her time with Formula Student:
~ What’s your name and where do you come from?
Hi Formula Careers! My name is Simone Briggs and I am from Melbourne, Australia.
~ What would your dream job in F1 look like?
My long-term goal is to be running team operations or be a team coordinator for an F1 team. Coming from an engineering and law background, my dream role is something which combines and allows me to leverage my different experiences and technical and interpersonal skills.
~ Tell us about your passion for F1 and how it all started
I was never interested in cars or engineering as a kid, but I have always been massively competitive and drawn to things that challenge me. In my second year of university I joined Monash’s Formula Student team to get some hands-on experience and immediately loved it! Formula 1 in particular presents the ultimate challenge, with performance to be found not only in the car, but in the personnel, operations and so many other aspects of the team, and was something I was naturally drawn to.
~ What have your study choices been so far?
I am currently studying a double bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Law at Monash University, Melbourne. In my engineering studies I have chosen electives focussing on mechanical design and analysis; in law I have focussed on the areas of commercial (company and product) law, entrepreneurship and intellectual property – areas which promote innovation.
I attended high school in Perth, Western Australia, and took Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Philosophy and Ethics and Chinese Language in my final year for the WACE (Western Australia Certificate of Education, equivalent to GSCE).
~ Tell us about your work experiences and industrial placements
Last year I was offered an internship with Renault F1 Team and took off a year from university to move to the UK for the duration of 2019. The offer itself came completely out of the blue – it came by referral for an open position, but I was not aware of the opening nor had applied for it! Whilst the timing was fortunate, it really came as a result of the strong experience I had accrued at that point as well as the professional network I had developed over the years.
The role was with the Aero Engineering team in the Aerodynamics Department, who are responsible for the mechanical design of all systems in the wind tunnel and wind tunnel scale model. I absolutely loved working with Aero Engineering, and gained invaluable design experience, and well as developing my interpersonal skills and using the opportunity to learn as much out about the team and other departments as I possibly could.
Prior to this in 2017, I also undertook a year-long internship with AVL Racing based in Graz, Austria and Cologne, Germany. AVL develop and supply a huge range of technology to both the automotive and motorsport sectors, including F1. I gained a lot of insight into the requirements of Tier 1 motorsport projects as well as having the opportunity to work on a number of them. I secured this internship directly through my involvement in Formula Student, as I was approached by the director of AVL Racing after he judged my Business Plan Presentation at FS Austria in 2016.
~ Tell us about your experiences with Formula Student
I was actively involved in Formula Student for 4 years with Monash Motorsport, over which time I undertook a number of different responsibilities, predominantly suspension design and testing. In my last year on the team I became Chief Operating Officer (and co-team leader), where I was responsible for the planning and coordination of the team, running parallel international competition seasons with the combustion and electric cars and a development year for the driverless car. It has been very interesting to have been on the team from when it was 40 students with one car, to ultimately leading the team with 100+ students and 3 cars.
Overall, Formula Student was a net positive experience. It is very much a case of what you put in, you will get out, and I always put a lot in to my own personal development and to advance the success of the team and got a lot out of it. There is however a danger of putting in too much, and time management and personal discipline is critical. It is important to balance an experience like Formula Student with studies and other activities, as at the end of the day, it is but one type of experience that can only do so much.
~ How do you feel it will help you to achieve the career you hope for?
Many current and past Formula 1 engineers have Formula Student experience, so not only does it develop highly relevant skills but is also regarded as highly valuable experience. Given the extensive network of FS alumni and event sponsors, it is also a great platform from which to develop your own professional connections and network.
~ What’s been your biggest challenge so far with regards to pursuing a career in F1?
The geographical constraints are definitely the biggest barrier to entry for me. Being from outside of the EU (and with no dual passport etc) is difficult to overcome, not just with regard to the need to move your life overseas but also on the administration side with requirements like sponsored visas. This is particularly so in the current COVID crisis.
I’ve accepted that my move back to F1 may take longer than someone who has graduated university in the UK or Europe, but it also puts a higher pressure on me to make sure that I am a good enough candidate to warrant bringing in from overseas, over someone who might be locally available. In regard I am very fortunate to have undertaken the internship with Renault when I did, which allowed me to develop highly valuable and relevant skills and connections in the industry. But the current global climate is certainly casting a lot of uncertainty as to when I might be able to get back into the industry.
~ What’s been your biggest success or proudest moment?
I got the offer for the internship at Renault F1 in the middle of competing at Formula Student UK in 2018, and then two days later we won the competition with the combustion car – the team’s first-ever international competition win – and placed third overall with our first-year electric car. That was a pretty good week!
~ What advice would you like to share with future students?
- Be a problem solver with social skills
The competition for jobs in Formula 1 is so high, that having good grades or good technical experience is not always enough. Being able to convey your ideas, present yourself and connect with people is just as important. The value in networking I think is still underrated. Not only does it give you access to people and opportunities, but taking a proactive approach helps develop your interpersonal skills and personal brand.
- Luck is just preparation meeting an opportunity
I don’t believe in luck; rather if you put in the time and effort to grow your skills and network, opportunities will find you. Approach every task and project with an attitude to get everything you can out of it, and when the right opportunity comes up, you will be ready to take full advantage of it.
- Make peace with your own timeline
F1 is not easy to get into, and depending on your personal circumstances, like your level of formal education, or non-EU residence, it will take time to get there. But that isn’t a bad thing by any means. The time you spend developing your skills and experience now is an investment for the future, and the right opportunities will come at the right time if you’ve prepared yourself for them.
~ How are you coping with the current pandemic situation?
Adjusting to online university studies has been strange but surprisingly smooth. Times like this have really highlighted to me the importance of building and maintaining relationships both in industry and personally, so I’ve been endeavouring to focus on that as much as I can.
Thank you Simone for sharing your journey with us, we wish you the best of luck!
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